Don’t read too much into internet car complaints because in most cases the entire story behind the failure has not been revealed. Knowing the rest of the sordid tale can often bring a different perspective to that complaint.
The transmission used in the Explorer should be the 4R70W and it’s a good, solid transmission. I own, and have owned, several cars with this transmission and they’ve been absolutely flawless through a quarter million miles of operation; each.
Lack of regular fluid/filter changes has an awful lot to do with whether someone is posting their transmission tale of woe on the net.
The resident transmission expert, Transman, has also stated that this transmission is a good one.
This premise applies to every make/model of vehicle and with every mechanical facet of all of those vehicles.
As to labor rates, generally the only way one would find a triple rate would be comparing a dealer to some guy working out of his driveway. The dealer labor rates are not set arbitrarily. They’re based on what it takes to be profitable.
My memory is hazy on this, but I think the general rule of thumb is that it takes about 25 flat rate hours PER service stall to reach the break even point. So, 10 stalls means 250 hours of flat rate labor per week just to cover expenses.
The analogy I always use is comparing the cost of having your lawn moved by the 14 year old kid from next door against the cost of having it done by a professional lawn care business. Different business models and vast difference in expenses.